FLAME TREES: Lightning sparks series of fires

Click or flick across for more photos from yesterday's fires. 

THE rain came at exactly the right time.

Lightning that cracked from the sky started a wild bushfire that threatened homes at Leneva yesterday before a downpour stopped the blaze in its tracks.

“That’s not to say there wasn’t 100 courageous firefighters out there,” CFA Hume region controller Paul King said. 

“But if it hadn’t rained we would have been in a world of hurt.”

Cathy McGowan’s home was one of two that were under threat in the area.

The Member for Indi was half an hour away from opening her new office at Wangaratta when her sister rang to tell her relatives and neighbours were packing up her computers and files in her home in case fire hit.

“I thought ‘Oh well, that’s tough and there’s not much I can do about it’,” she said.

Ms McGowan was nonetheless relieved her home was untouched and thanked her neighbours, relatives and firefighters.

“Aren’t I lucky? I’m extraordinarily grateful,” she said.

Mr King described yesterday’s fire, which burnt 100 hectares between the Indigo Valley and Beechworth-Wodonga Road, as a “weather event”.

“It was a fire that was started by lightning, spread by 70km/h winds and controlled by rain,” Mr King said.

Lightning hit above Brewers Road at the top of the Leneva Gap at 1.20pm, sparking a blaze that quickly caught hold.

A passer-by phoned emergency services, with firefighters from Wodonga also spotting the plume of smoke.

The strong north-westerly winds drove the fire into steep, rocky country south-east heading towards the Leneva Gap and upper Leneva area.

More than 100 firefighters and four helicopters responded to the fire, containing it before it could cross the Beechworth Road and into the Baranduda range.

“If the fire had continued in its path, a dozen homes and sheds in and around Beechworth could have been under threat,” Mr King said.

That fear, as well as a Beechworth-Wodonga Road that was steadily becoming busier with traffic at 3.30pm, was why an emergency warning was issued before it was downgraded when the rain came about 3.45pm.

Mr King said fairly prompt action was needed to reduce the consequences for the community.

Over the Border, firefighters near Walla spent last night putting-out a 50 hectare fire that burnt rough terrain on a hill near the Jindera-Walla Road that started at midday.

More than 40 firefighters spent about three hours extinguishing another grass fire near the Kywong-Howlong Road at Brocklesby.

NSW Rural Fire Service Inspector Charles Anderson said there were no threats to homes or properties in either fire.